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Full text of "A history of Persia"

THE TRAGEDY OF KERBELA          41
stances are considered it is difficult to blame him for
championing the rights of his house, which an unworthy
brother had bartered for money and ignoble ease. More-
over, Husayn was probably in straitened circumstances,
owing to his elder brother's action in appropriating to his
own use the greater part of the family income, while,
nevertheless, as head of the family, he had become re-
sponsible for maintaining not only his own wives and
children but also those of his brothers and other relatives.
' The true friends of the house of Ali at Mecca begged
Husayn not to trust to the fickle Kufans, and perhaps
their influence would have prevailed but for the interested
advice of Abdulla ibn Zobayr, who clearly saw that his
own ambition to attain the Caliphate could never be
realized as long as Husayn lived.
The March on Kufa.—Husayn, desirous of testing
public sentiment at Kufa, sent his cousin Muslim ahead
to rally his adherents ; but Obaydulla, who had been
appointed to the governorship, seized and killed the
envoy. The son of Ali may well have been dismayed on
learning the terrible news, which made his expedition
almost hopeless. But he doubtless realized that he had
gone too far to retreat, while his relations clamoured to
avenge the death of Muslim. Consequently a little party
of thirty horse and forty foot—the numerical weakness
was a sign of poverty—quitted Mecca and marched north
to Kufa. As if to make the military conditions still more
unfavourable, this tiny force was accompanied by women
and children. The messages received on the way were
more and more discouraging, and the situation was well
summed up by a traveller coming from Kufa, who ex-
claimed, " The heart of the city is with thee, but its sword
is against thee/7 The Beduins at first rallied to the
standard of Husayn, but finding the position hopeless,
gradually deserted the doomed band.
As they approached Kufa, a chief named Al Hurr
barred their farther progress, but courteously intimated
that they might m<*ve either to the left or to the right.
Accordingly, leaving Kufa to the right, they made a some-
what aimless detour round the city until their farther